Thursday, November 6, 2014

Opening a Japanese Bank Account

Apparently I have been far too useful at my volunteer job at the YMCA since they have been really insistent on wanting to pay me.  Last week they helped me change my Visa from a "dependent" to "part time work".  This was an amazingly easy process and only took about 30 minutes.

Next they insisted on me getting a Japanese bank account so that they could deposit my earnings.  They don't do checks in Japan and they can't direct deposit into a foreign bank.  So far Jeff and I have been happily using our American bank card to take out money.  Our account has a foreign transaction fee waiver and it works at all 7-11's (yes, there are a ton of them in Japan including one right next door to our apartment) and Bank of Japan also accepts foreign bank cards, so there has never been a need to open an account until now.

I was told on Tuesday that I needed a chop (stamp of my name) and that it could be three characters long.  She asked what I wanted, my initials or my name.  I said my name and was surprised today when it literally says "SKY" with the letters going downwards.  I somehow thought it would be my name in katakana or hiragana, but nope - lol!

Aaron volunteered to help me get my account set up (thank goodness).  His Japanese is very good, he's been living in Japan for around 14 years.  We get to the bank and sit down and they look at my residence card and ask if I have a stamp.  Yes and yes.  They said it's okay if I write in romaji (basically spell out Japanese words with English letters) but they have to be all capitals.  Okay, no problem.  So, I fill out a couple of pieces of paper.  One was to register my chop and essentially say that it is mine and legally binding (no signatures, you just use your chop).  The second form was to open the account (you only need 1 yen to open an account in Japan, which is about a penny)  and required my address (exactly as it was written on the residency card except romaji instead of hiragana) and my name and some other minor info.  I filled out everything according to the instructions that Arron translated for me and then we started waiting.  The bank closed, they rolled down the doors and we waited.  It wasn't that long of a wait but it seemed like forever due to it's awkwardness.  Note: the bank closed at 3:00 PM, strange!  Finally they motion us over and I was given my bank card and an account book. Nice!

I walked back to the YMCA and was pretty happy about things and then my phone rang, which is weird since no one calls me in Japan.  It was someone cheerfully chirping Japanese at me very rapidly.  The only parts I understood were my name and sorry.  I apologized and politely explained that I had no idea what they were saying in Japanese as and that I don't speak Japanese.  There was another stream of rapid Japanese to which I repeated myself.  Eventually there was an awkward hold and then a male voice explained, with some difficulty, that I had a mistake on my form and needed to go back to the bank and that they would "open it back up just for you".  So I walked back to the bank (sadly, without a translator this time).  The lady who looked over my paperwork was standing out front repeatedly bowing and apologizing (uh... I'm the one who made the mistake here?) and when I apologized since it really was my mistake she looked like she was going to panic so I stopped.

I had managed to use my fantastic powers of dyslexia to write Chou not Chuo in two places so I had to fill out all of the forms again.  Then upon another inspection, they decided that my upper case "U" was not correct because it had a little bit of a tail and that is not a proper "U".  So as they apologized several more times I filled out the forms a third and (hopefully final) time.  This third from was meticulously inspected since at this point I figured they must think me a total idiot (and I wouldn't disagree with them).  They deemed it acceptable and I was escorted out.  Everyone still at the bank bowed to me as I left and the poor lady who was stuck dealing with me the most just kept bowing.  So I bowed back.  Then she bowed then I bowed, then she bowed.  I thought I'd try a nod?  Nope, she bowed.  At that point I just ran away.  I think that was what I was supposed to do anyway.  Yep, Japan is an adventure.  But!  I now have a bank account.

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